Most Tablet PCs simply arenÃƒ¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã¢â€ž¢t suited to serve as primary computers. Small keyboards, tiny screens and lack of optical drives have kept most consumers from even thinking about switching to a tablet. Gateway is doing its best to change this by pushing the M285-E Convertible as the everyday-manÃƒ¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã¢â€ž¢s Tablet PC.
The Gateway M285-E offers the flexibility of a tablet without compromising features or performance expected in a notebook. After using this computer for a few weeks, itÃƒ¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã¢â€ž¢s easy to see why Gateway sells more retail Tablet PCs than any one else.
Multifunction and convertible gizmos always have at least some drawbacks and the M285 is no exception. It weighs just over seven pounds, making it tough to hold comfortably with one hand while scribbling on the screen with the other, especially while standing. The convertible also costs a few hundred dollars more than similarly equipped, but lighter conventional notebooks.
It is solid throughout thanks to a magnesium frame and high-quality components. The M285-E is sturdy and runs cool and quiet, with the fans only occasionally spinning on. It does give off a little heat, but not enough to make it uncomfortable on your lap. The screenÃƒ¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã¢â€ž¢s small single hinge may look fragile, but is anchored in the computerÃƒ¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã¢â€ž¢s magnesium frame. I lifted the machine by the screen very roughly and the hinge held firmly the screen firmly in place.
The screen is what really makes this notebook a Ãƒ¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…convertibleÃƒ¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã‚. The 14-inch widescreen (WXGA 1280×768 pixels) swivels 180-degrees and folds down flat to switch into tablet mode for easy note taking. Folding the screen and twisting it about makes it incredibly easy share your work with others without having to reposition the whole computer. The screen is sufficient for most applications, but a little grainy when playing DVDs.
Recording conversations or lectures is easy with the built in microphone. The speakers are nothing to write home about, but loud enough to fill a small room. The multi-format double layer DVD writer reads and writes just about anything you can throw at it (DVDÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚±R/ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚±RW/CD-RW).
The pen digitizer that comes with the M285-E offers a natural, intuitive way for users to write, draw, annotate documents and manipulate images. Tap once on the screen for left-click, hold the button near the tip of the pen for right-click. The tablet software accurately converts handwriting into text, and can handle my illegible-to-humans cursive with ease.
There are a number of buttons on the edge of the screen for se in tablet mode. A small five-way cursor helps navigate through documents and control AV settings. Four other buttons control screen orientation, launch Windows Task Manager, launch applications and toggle the five-way cursor between navigation and AV settings.
The M285-E comes with Microsoft Office OneNote, a sophisticated application for creating and organizing documents for pen entry. Microsoft Education Pack for Tablet PC and Agilix GoBinder Lite are also included. My favorite piece of pen-enabled software is the Snipping Tool. As its name implies, it makes it easy to snip anything you see on your screen, add your own notes to it and send the resulting image in an email or another application. The images in this article have been snipped from Firefox, Acrobat and Photoshop.
The 8-Cell battery runs the width of the backside of the computer and has a bump that tilts the machine forward a few degrees, making it more easier to type or Ãƒ¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…inkÃƒ¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã‚Ãƒâ€šÃ‚ while on a desk. The battery doubles as a handle to clutch onto while in tablet mode.
The screen automatically dims when unplugged to increase battery life. With the default settings, the battery lasted 4 hours and 25 minutes while editing text documents and surfing the web. If you need more juice, Gateway sells a 6-cell battery that replaces the optical drive, and a 12-cell main battery.
Performance is excellent, with an overall PCMark05 score of 3,541 while running the default Tablet settings. The system is very responsive and fast enough for all but the most demanding gamers. The M285-E easily tackles everything its designed to do.
The power connector, docking port, VGA port, Ethernet jack, three USB 2 ports, Firewire port and PC Card slot are all crammed in the left side of the M285-E. The right side is relatively uncluttered with the DVDÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚±RW drive taking up the front half and a cooling vent, security lock slot and modem jack taking up the rear half. A microphone jack, headphone jack, and 7-in-1 card reader are positioned at the front edge, beneath the track pad. The digitizer pen slides into a slot under the left palm rest.
Gateway includes the Notebook Value Service Plan in the price of the M285-E, which covers parts and labor on defects, and telephone technical support for three years. We tried calling GatewayÃƒ¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã¢â€ž¢s support number twice during business hours to see how fast we could get a live person on the line. The first call was answered immediately after entering the computerÃƒ¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã¢â€ž¢s serial number. On the second call were on hold for just over two minutes before a service rep. Gateway has an excellent online support center that is very informative and well organized.
This is an excellent choice for students and professionals alike who demand flexibility and performance in a wide array of computing situations.
PROS: Flexible, Sturdy, Great Ãƒ¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…InkingÃƒ¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã‚Ãƒâ€šÃ‚ Surface, Battery Life
Monitor: 14.0″ WXGA Active Matrix TFT,1280 x 768 max. resolution widescreen
Ports: USB 2 (3), Firewire, VGA, Docking Port, PC Card slot, headphone out, microphone in
Optical Drive Multi-Format Double Layer DVD Writer, DVDÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚±R/ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚±RW/CD-RW
Input Devices: Full size keyboard, trackpad w/scroll zone and two buttons, Pen digitizer, built-in microphone, 5-way cursor and 4 tablet control buttons
Hard Drive: 80 GB 5400 RPM
Memory: 512MB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 2-256MB modules